Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England

Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England

Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England

Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England

Synopsis

Describes the lives of Blacks in colonial New England, discusses the influence of African culture on their communities, and explains how they developed their own way of life.

Excerpt

Unlike elsewhere in the Americas, where black populations considerably Africanized their surrounding societies, the black community of New England had relatively little influence on the development of mainstream Yankee culture. New England's blacks were too small a minority to retain much autonomy or greatly alter white folkways. Since Yankee slaves spent the greater part of their daily routine as subordinate members of white households, separated from the society of fellow blacks, they could not maintain a viable African culture; neither were they, as supposed inferiors, permitted to develop into fully assimilated "Americans." Instead, a combination of choice, circumstance, oppression, and exploitation led the African immigrants to become black Yankees—a very special breed of Afro-American New Englanders.

In New England, bondage meant a form of family slavery. Because of the restricted economic opportunities for gang labor, the majority of Yankee bondsmen found themselves in service to masters who could afford no more than one or two slaves to help them with household, farm, or business chores. Since northern slave owners rarely held enough bondsmen to permit the expense of separate living quarters for the races, common residence during the more domestic hours reinforced the proximity of workday relationships. Even in the exceptional cases where gang labor was used on the large farms of eastern Connecticut and Narragansett, bondsmen were treated more as family domestics than as plantation field slaves.

The precedents for Yankee slaveholders to bring black servants into their own households residentially, socially, and religiously go back to the early . . .

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